A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages - Preface

Teachings on Guhyasamāja Tantra


636 pages, 6 x 9 inches


ISBN 9780861714544

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eBook Bundle (PDF, epub, mobi)


ISBN 9781614290353

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A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages is a profound exploration of tantric Buddhism’s vision of human nature and its potential for full awakening. Framed within the notion of five stages as developed in a seminal tantric work of the Indian mystic Nāgārjuna, Lamp is the last major work of Tsongkhapa, one of the greatest masters of Tibetan Buddhism. Reading this important text, we encounter his authoritative voice, coming face to face with his profound personal experience borne of years of learning and meditative practice. Every now and then, especially when Tsongkhapa describes complex physiological and psychological states that arise from specific meditative practices, we feel these could become a reality even for someone like ourselves, if only we devoted sufficient time to the path.

The Vajrayāna practices presented in Lamp belong to what is known as the Guhyasamāja cycle of tantra, and Tsongkhapa was a key proponent of this cycle of teachings. In fact, he explicitly refers to himself as “a yogi of glorious Guhyasamāja” and saw the clarification and propagation of this tradition in Tibet to be an important personal mission. The publication of this volume is a milestone in making key classical Tibetan texts available in contemporary languages. In particular, it provides a valuable resource for those who seek to engage deeply with the Tibetan Vajrayāna teachings, either as their personal spiritual practice or as a resource for exploring the deeper human potential. It is therefore a source of both joy and honor to be able to offer to the world, in a rigorous and lucid English translation, this precious treasure of the Tibetan tradition.

Two primary objectives have driven the creation and development of The Library of Tibetan Classics. The first is to help revitalize the appreciation and the study of the Tibetan classical heritage within Tibetan-speaking communities worldwide. The younger generation in particular struggle with the tension between traditional Tibetan culture and the realities of modern consumerism. To this end, efforts have been made to develop a comprehensive yet manageable body of texts, one that features the works of Tibet’s best-known authors and covers the gamut of classical Tibetan knowledge. The second aim of The Library of Tibetan Classics is to help make these texts part of global literary and intellectual heritage. In this regard, we have tried to make the English translation reader-friendly and, as much as possible, keep the body of the text free of unnecessary scholarly apparatus, which can intimidate general readers. For specialists who wish to compare the translation with the Tibetan original, page references of the critical edition of the Tibetan text are provided in brackets, and these Tibetan texts are available online.

The texts in this thirty-two-volume series span more than a millennium— from the development of the Tibetan script in the seventh century to the first part of the twentieth century, when Tibetan society and culture first encountered industrial modernity. The volumes are thematically organized and cover many of the categories of classical Tibetan knowledge—from the teachings specific to each Tibetan school to the classical works on philosophy, psychology, and phenomenology. The first category includes teachings of the Kadam, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü, Geluk, and Jonang schools, of miscellaneous Buddhist lineages, and of the Bön school. Texts in these volumes have been largely selected by senior lineage holders of the individual schools. Texts in the other categories have been selected primarily in recognition of the historical reality of the individual disciplines. For example, in the field of epistemology, works from the Sakya and Geluk schools have been selected, while the volume on buddha-nature features the writings of Butön Rinchen Drup and various Kagyü masters. Where fields are of more common interest, such as the three codes or the bodhisattva ideal, efforts have been made to represent the perspectives of the four major Tibetan Buddhist schools. The Library of Tibetan Classics can function as a comprehensive library of the Tibetan literary heritage for libraries, educational and cultural institutions, and interested individuals.

It has been a profound honor for me to be part of this important translation project. I wish first of all to express my deep personal gratitude to H.H. the Dalai Lama for always being such a profound source of inspiration and an exemplary embodiment of the best of the Tibetan tradition. I thank Gavin Kilty for his masterful translation of this important Tibetan work into English with such care, respect, and clarity. To the following individuals and organizations, I owe my sincere thanks: to David Kittelstrom at Wisdom for his incisive editing; to my fellow Tibetan editors in Sarnath, especially Geshé Lobsang Choedar, for assisting me in the editing of the Tibetan critical edition, including sourcing all the citations; to the Central University for Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, for proving full access to its library to the Tibetan editors; and to my wife Sophie Boyer-Langri for taking on the numerous administrative chores that are part of a collaborative project such as this.

Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Nita Ing and the Ing Family Foundation, who most generously provided the funding for this translation project. I also acknowledge the initial funding toward this project received from Ganden Shartse Dro-phen Ling, Singapore, which helped launched the project. Without this support, no amount of dedication on the part of the Institute or the depth of talent and skill on the part of the translator would have resulted in such successful conclusion of the project. I would also like to thank the Hershey Family Foundation for its longstanding support of the Institute of Tibetan Classics, without which the task of creating The Library of Tibetan Classics simply would not have gotten off the ground, and Pierre and Pamela Omidyar, who have enabled me through a special grant to continue overseeing the classics translation project as its general editor.

It is my sincere hope that the translations offered in this volume will benefit many people. Through the efforts of all those who have been involved in this noble venture, may all beings enjoy peace and happiness.


Thupten Jinpa
Montreal, 2013



How to cite this document:
© The Institute of Tibetan Classics, A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages (Wisdom Publications, 2013)

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